By Jon Cassidy | Watchdog.org
HOUSTON – Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee has consistently opposed the expansion of federal surveillance authority.
Most of those votes were quixotic protests against bills certain to pass.
But when she actually had a chance to cast a vote that mattered yesterday, a chance to restrict surveillance to where it is warranted, she abandoned her long-held position, and opposed a bipartisan amendment to end the National Security Agency’s blanket collection of phone records.
The amendment by Reps. Justin Amash (R) and John Conyers (D) of Michigan would have ended the NSA’s collection of records, including phone calls, of people unrelated to any investigation.
The measure failed on a 205-217 vote, but still shocked the leadership of both parties, who had kept the practice secret from the American people for years.
Since Edward Snowden revealed the extent of the NSA’s warrantless snooping, the politics of the issue have changed.
Alarmed voters and their representatives in both parties have started pushing for some limit more meaningful than an annual rubber stamp by the secret FISA court.
A number of Texas representatives from both parties have started to favor warrant requirements and other traditional checks on government power.
Jackson Lee is the only one to go the other way.
In 2008, she voted against granting immunity to the telecoms that helped the Bush administration conduct warrantless wiretapping.
In 2011, she voted against extending the PATRIOT Act.
In 2012, she voted against reauthorizing the FISA Amendments Act, which allows warrantless surveillance of Americans’ overseas communications.
In 2013, she did the opposite.
The measure divided both parties, with Republicans voting 134-94 against it, and Democrats voting 111-83 for it.
The Texas GOP delegation voted 14-10 against the Amash amendment, while Texas Democrats voted 8-4 against it.
The 10 votes in favor mark a stark change for the state GOP. In recent years, Texas Republicans have done almost nothing to slow the expansion of the surveillance state, as Watchdog.org has reported.
Former Rep. Ron Paul is the only Republican to have opposed surveillance expansion consistently. A half-dozen Texas Democrats have opposed one surveillance measure or another, but only Jackson Lee and Lloyd Doggett, along with former Rep. Charles Gonzalez, opposed it consistently.
Along with Doggett, the Democrats to support Amash were Gene Green (who’s voted this way in the past at times) and freshmen Filemon Vela, a former federal judge, and Beto O’Rourke, whose father was a judge.
The Republicans who voted to protect the Fourth Amendment were Joe Barton, Michael Burgess, Blake Farenthold, Louie Gohmert, Ralph Hall, Kenny Marchant, Ted Poe, Steve Stockman, Randy Weber and Roger Williams.
The rest voted to spy on you.
Contact Jon Cassidy at firstname.lastname@example.org or @jpcassidy000.